A week ago USPTO launched its new Financial Manager system. A core component of this FM system is The New USPTO.gov Account system. As explained on the USPTO web site, The New USPTO.gov Account system “will one day be your single means of accessing USPTO services and applications”. In other words, it will be a successor to the present-day system of logging in at EFS-Web and Private PAIR.
Unfortunately, the designers of the new USPTO FM system (who I guess are the same as the designers of The New USPTO.gov Account system) failed to follow through on a promise that the USPTO made back in 2012. I’m talking about a promise to let the customer pick how much time would pass before the customer would get forced into a logout from the system.
EFS-Web and Private PAIR have been around for over a decade. Users of these two systems are all too familiar with the problem that the systems will log you out abruptly, without warning, anywhere from five to sixty minutes after you logged in. In 2012 I surveyed over one hundred power users of EFS-Web and Private PAIR to learn their preferences regarding this “forced log out” problem. You can see the the results of the survey here: User survey says USPTO should permit customers
to turn off the automatic log-out from EFS-Web and Private PAIR. Here is the summary of the survey:
USPTO designed EFS-Web and Private PAIR so that customers are logged out after a period of inactivity, approximately an hour. As it turns out, for the vast majority of respondents, this is a bug, not a feature. More than 90% of respondents find this feature neither important nor valuable. If USPTO were to change the system so that each user could choose for a particular login session to never get logged out automatically, 81% of respondents would use the feature sometimes or for all or nearly all of their login sessions.
Here is the survey’s recommendation:
USPTO should change EFS-Web and Private PAIR so that the user can choose for a particular login session to never get logged out automatically.
In 2012 I personally spoke with each of the USPTO project managers in charge of EFS-Web and Private PAIR. (You know who you are!) I also personally mailed a copy of this survey report to every one of these project managers, and to their bosses, and to their bosses’ bosses. The project managers said they were very sorry but it was impossible to make this change to EFS-Web or Private PAIR — the forced logouts were “baked into” the system and could not easily be gotten rid of. But these project managers also said that a successor system was in the works. They promised me that the successor system (not yet named in 2012) would permit the user to pick how long it would be before the user was forced to log out from the system.
Now it is 2016, and the successor system is upon us. And this successor system has an even shorter “forced logout” time than the old one. It forces a user to log out after a mere fifteen minutes. This is much worse than the sixty-minute time period that is documented by USPTO for EFS-Web and Private PAIR.
USPTO broke its promise. Let’s hope that USPTO promptly fulfills its promise. The USPTO needs to permit the user to pick when (if at all) the user will get forced off the system. As the survey found, 81% of users would make use of a feature that permits the user to choose for a particular login session to never get logged out automatically. USPTO needs to respect that 81% of users by giving them that choice.
What do you think? If you could pick how much time would pass before the USPTO system forced you to log out, how much time would you pick?